The Pirates certainly aced their first quiz of the 2016 football season. Now this squad must brace for what will be a true test.
Scottie Montgomery’s first outing as a head coach couldn’t have had a better Pirate script as East Carolina flattened Western Carolina 52-7 Saturday night.
The Pirates were crisp and efficient in the opening game. Quarterback Phillip Nelson was near perfect, going 28-32 for 398 yards and 5 big touchdown passes. He also ran one in to open the scoring.
I asked him if he was surprised by the results.
“Not at all,” said Nelson. “We have worked hard and we concentrated on executing. We have a ton of weapons on this offense.”
Nelson wasn’t at all cocky with his answer. It was more matter of fact-like in nature then it was anything else.
The heroes on Saturday night included several of those weapons.
Anthony Scott rushed for over 100 yards and had over 200 yards in total offense. He can flat out fly and did so several times both on running plays and swing passes.
Zay Jones was exactly as advertised. He had 10 catches for 180 yards and will be the go-to guy in this offense.
James Summers was equally as effective and will be even more involved in the offense in the coming days and weeks.
It all starts, though, with the quarterback.
“We think Philip Nelson had one of the better grading games we’ve seen a quarterback have,” said head coach Scottie Montgomery.
Nelson will need a similar effort against a good North Carolina State team this week.
The key to victory against the Wolfpack may be up front. The Pirate offensive line was the unsung hero against Western Carolina. This week that group faces a stout Wolfpack defensive line, led by former 5-star recruit Kentavius Street, who played his high school football in Greenville at J.H. Rose.
“We’re looking at a really, really good football team with a lot of talent and a great coach,” said Coach Montgomery. “Coach (Dave) Doeren has done a great job with his team. We watched them on tape. They look like a big-time football team.”
For my money, this is a big-time football rivalry game that should be played every year. This will be the biggest game in the state this week, by far.
N.C. State leads the all-time series 16-12, but the Pirates have won seven of the last eleven in the set. The Pirates are also riding a five-game winning streak against Atlantic Coast Conference teams.
There are all kinds of connections between the schools.
Former Pirate defensive back Damon Magazu picked off a Russell Wilson pass in overtime to preserve East Carolina’s 33-27 overtime win in 2010. Mags is now a graduate assistant on the ECU staff.
Pack defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable had two stints as an assistant at East Carolina. Coach Hux was a part of the Pirate’s “Dream Season” as an assistant under Bill Lewis in 1991. He was also an assistant in ’98 and ’99.
Former Pirate standout Dwayne Ledford is in his first year as the offensive line coach at North Carolina State. Ledford had a nice 7-year NFL career and was an assistant at ECU in ’08 and ’09.
ECU Director of Athletics Jeff Compher spent 13 years in the athletic department at North Carolina State. Compher also hired State’s Dave Doeren as Northern Illinois’ football coach while athletic director there in 2010.
The most famous meeting between these two game in the Peach Bowl on January 1, 1991. East Carolina trailed N.C. State 34-17 in the fourth quarter before the Pirates rallied for what is arguably the biggest win in program history.
Jeff Blake, Robert Jones, Luke Fisher and the rest of that squad will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game.
It should be the best atmosphere of the year at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
It will be a great mix of remembering the past — and checking out the future, all in one day at East Carolina.